Saturday, July 14, 2007

Rigging Anybody?

I have been working on a template character for teaching the fundamentals of rigging *and* the fundamentals of animation in a course I'm likely to be teaching this fall. I don't yet know how much I'm going to need to cover in terms of basics, although I'm pretty certain that these students know at least a little about animation. More on that later.

Here is the segmented version of the character. I call him/her/it aniBody.

aniBody borrows some important concepts from other rigs designed for teaching students the fundamentals of animation. Primarily, I am pulling from the folks at Animation Mentor who provide their students with 1) a bouncing ball w/tail rig named Taylor 2) a walking-ball rig, 3) a segmented character named Stewie, as well as 4) a high-res Stewie setup which is a complete single mesh character.

Animation Mentor is an 'animation only' online school that is pretty much kicking asses and taking names on the subject of teaching character animation. Any college program of animation instruction that does not pay close attention to what Animation Mentor teaches is most likely cheating their students and probably headed for folly. But, like I stated, they teach character animation only (which is a lot) but nothing else that relates to the subject of character animation.

In my personal opinion, the majority of college programs teaching in animation should not be 'animation only' in their curriculum. If they were, who would write stories? board said stories? design characters? model and texture said characters? rig said characters? model environments? texture and light said environments? create special effects? render? composite? and so on... ? get my point. Animation Mentor absolutely depends on there being other types of schools out there that are more comprehensive in terms of curriculum. AM graduates would have nothing to animate if it weren't for the other animation programs out there.

But, getting back to the subject... aniBody.

The design of aniBody uses some of the ideas behind setups such as those provided by Animation Mentor with a few basic differences; 1) aniBody is intended to serve as a basic model for learning rigging as well 2) aniBody is intended to be rigged and animated in stages: first hips/legs as in walking ball, then add spine/head, and finally entire character including face arms and hands 3) aniBody does not have cartoony proportions exaggerated such as Stewie's scary, over sized eyeballs and 4) aniBody is designed so that students can swap out the original head with their own designs if they choose to do so at a later time.

Rigging can be very tedious and unrewarding process for students who are not inclined to pursue the subject further. This character rig-and-animate approach is intended to give all students quicker rewards by allowing them to animate between stages of rigging. It is also designed to introduce the complexities of animating in gradual increments. A full-on character animation class (or two, or three, or... ) should follow with no time spent on such technical matters.

I do what I teach pure-and-simple. If I teach others to rig, I rig. If I teach others to animate... its because I animate. Anyone pushing the idiotic thesis that those who can do, and those who can't teach is itching for a ugly encounter with me.

You can't teach others what you don't do... therefore, I do and I teach.

Below are a few of my resent test run-thrus for rigging *and* animating. First, the hips/legs setup with a generic walk-cycle:

click to play

It's basic and it works. And then after rigging the spine, neck, and head I created a simple jump exercise:

click to play

The animation above is only in a rough-blocking stage... currently this sequence is in linear tangents (for those who care) and has been animated primarily on '2s'. With only a few hours in creation it still needs work, but I'll polish this one later. Meanwhile something funny happened when preparing this for my blog.

For those who think people familiar with the complexities of 3D rigging are lacking in artistic sensibilities, here is something that spawned from the creation of this post. While rendering the stills above with a little After Effects trickery I noticed something familiar. The still for my generic walk-cycle looked like Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 by Marcel Duchamp.

And then I noticed that my jump exercise vaguely resembled the effect used by the masterful experimental animator Norman McLaren in his work Pas de Deux. Along with George Dunning and Grant Munro, the work of Norman McLaren has served as inspiration to me in the past so I decided to render out what I had. Its not brilliant, but it gives me ideas.

click to play

In the mean time, for those who mistake art for not knowing how to make things work, watch what a truly masterful command of technical matters can produce.

I know, it looks more like film making and compositing than it does animation. First of all, animation is film making; and second of all, there was a time before contemporary digital compositing techniques when this kind of work easily fit in the category of experimental animation. Besides, aren't contemporary, digital compositors working primarily in the animation industry?

Hope you find this as amazing as do I. Meanwhile I'm going to continue working on my rigging so that I have a complete version of aniBody for the next test animation.



Erik Westlund said...

blauereiter published on the previous post "How-To" when I think it was intended fro this post.

For those interested, check the previous post with a comment about the relative merits of Marcel Duchamp... or lack there of depending on your views.



mx sara said...

was searching for techincal info on rigging when i came across this post just fab thank you

if for nothing else the timely reminder of noman mcclaren and
Pas de Deux


Erik Westlund said...

My pleasure mx sara...

There are some great collections of work created under the umbrella of the National Film Board of Canada.

The award winning film "Ryan" is only the latest of many greats from this organization.

Throughout his career at NFB McLaren had a great influence over many other talented people such as Grant Munro. You can see some of their collaborations on the dvd "Cut-up: the Films of Grant Munro"

On the subject of rigging: if you don't already know about it, don't miss such resorces as Creature TD:

Other such sights are listed under "technical resources". I have a similar, slightly more 3D directed list on my links page at my website too.

Glad to find another McLaren fan.


mx sara said...


thanks for those links
excellent etc

soon miss ella phante will dance with grace and style


amit said...

hi sir im an student of animation and art i love your work it was soo help full for me thank for that sir can i ask one thing it is that can u give that rig to me plz can u because i want to do animation
plz if u can than ok other wise now prob

Erik Westlund said...

Hello Amit,

Thank you for the compliments. I am glad you have found some of what I have posted helpful. The rig displayed in this post was specifically created for teaching purposes at the college where I work. Both the method of its construction and its use for animating is specifically for our students on campus.

If you want a good selection of rigs I suggest two online sources:
for Maya rigs, and
which includes rigs for several different 3D applications.

I do offer a simple walking ball rig if you are interested:

You will find a tutorial, a rig, an example walk-cycle sequence, and a couple of 'good' and 'bad' demos regarding foot and knee movement. There are plenty of other excellent free rigs available online. I recommend you download several and try them out.

Hope this helps. Happy animating. -e

Anonymous said...

Marcel Duchamp: Nude Descending a Staircase No 2
Computer Mirror Image: "THE BLUE BUTTERFLY IS 33YO NOW"

Watch video